There are several ways to interpret the Media Matters for America study showing that only 9 percent of guests on cable news programs addressing education policy are educators.
One could accept the liberal media watchdog group’s implied (though not explicitly stated) conclusion that there’s something unsatisfactory about the dearth of actual educators in school policy discussions on weekday evening cable news shows.
Another take is that educators—defined by Media Matters as “someone who either is or has been employed as a K-12 teacher, a school administrator such as a principal, a professor of education at the college or university level, or someone with an advanced degree (master’s or Ph.D.) in education"—may be no more legitimate or relevant in particular education policy discussions than non-educators such as lawmakers, journalists, think tank experts, students, or billionaires.
And maybe educators are too busy grading papers at night to drop what they’re doing to go to a TV studio and appear on “Anderson Cooper 360" on CNN, “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News Channel, or “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC. (Those are three of the 17 shows included in the Nov. 20 Media Matters study.)
A final take is one of surprise that Media Matters even found very many education segments during the study period, from Jan. 1 through Oct. 31 of this year. The watchdog group included segments that had “substantial discussion of domestic education policy issues, including but not limited to: education reform, teacher tenure, early education, guns in schools, the Common Core educational standards, religion in schools, and school choice.”
However, Media Matters doesn’t say in the report how many total education segments there were that met its definition, only that a total of 169 non-educators and 16 educators were featured guests among the three channels.
Based on those definitions and other methodological parameters outlined in the fairly short report, Media Matters says 4 percent of CNN’s education segments featured educators, 5 percent of Fox News’ segments did so, and 14 percent of MSNBC’s did.
I reached out to CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC for reactions to the study. I received no responses to emails or phone calls.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Education and the Media blog.